Looking back two weeks to Championship Sunday, I successfully mushed Green Bay against Tampa, but I can't take all the credit. Aaron Rodgers can't play from behind and props to the Packers organization for not drafting a WR in the 1st round to help him change that. As for KC, what I said about Mahomes held true:
"[he] is closer to 100% than most people realize and reminder: he's the best QB in the world."
...but that doesn't matter because I'm an idiot and didn't give out KC as a bet.
Let's get to the game!
Chiefs (16-2) vs. Bucs (14-5); 5:30pm CT
Action: 54% of bets on Chiefs -3 and 72% of bets on the Over 56
We now get a dream matchup of the GOAT vs. the reigning Super Bowl MVP in what will be an instant classic. The fact that both teams are likeable and both QBs are widely revered makes for great entertainment, but it doesn't leave us with many contrarian betting angles or hot takes.
On that note, here are the two unacceptable Tom Brady takes I will be avoiding in all conversations surrounding this game:
- The Patriots fan who is rooting against Brady as a "traitor." I gather that most Pats fans are backing Brady, but if you're part of this minority you're a clown. The dude gave you everything and left on as amicable of terms as possible. Appreciate what you got and take that hate somewhere else.
- Anybody hating on Patriots fans who are rooting for Brady/Bucs. "It's not your team! So you get to have your cake and eat it too?!?" Yes. Sports fanhood is illogical in many ways, but Pats fans continuing to support a guy who gave them nearly two decades of greatness makes plenty of sense. Remove the big ol' dump from your pants and let it go.
It feels like it's written in the stars for Brady to go through Brees, Rodgers, and Mahomes on this playoff run to earn more rings than any single NFL franchise. The dude has appeared in half of the Super Bowls over the past 20 years, and that experience will be invaluable as he looks to mentally compose his first-year team for a game that can exhaust ill-prepared, overly-hyped players by halftime. Operating from their home in Tampa, the familiarity of the day-to-day routine leading up to gametime should only help drive through the laser-focused "not too high, not too low" emotional message. All of this favors the Bucs, and that's why sharps pounced on the opening line of TB +3.5 to move this down to a field goal. Even at the current price of TB +3, there's a clear divide between professional action on Tampa vs. public action on Kansas City. For the reasons above, this brings us to…
Pick #1: Bucs +3
This bet will serve as a hedge for later picks in this blog, but yeah, I'll take the points with the best big-game quarterback of all-time who has repeatedly proven to be comfortable and controlled in some of the most crucial moments in NFL history. Do I think his team wins this game? No. But is he going to carry his team and take this game down to the wire? Yes. Gimme the points all day.
With that said, I'll be looking to live bet the Chiefs if the price drops to pick'em or better. Based on coin toss trends (KC almost always defers and TB occasionally chooses to receive), you should expect the Bucs to start with the ball and look to strike first. We've seen KC play from behind a million times, so wait for them to go down by 7 or more then attack them at a more favorable price on the live line. Middling this thing with a Chiefs win by 1 or 2 would be the perfect way to end the season.
Justifiably so, a lot is being made of the Bucs D-line and their pass rush, particularly in the absence of KC's top-2 offensive tackles. My counter is that the Chiefs have a ton of experience shuffling around their O-line this year, and the combo of Reid and Mahomes can almost always execute on a scheme to neutralize the opposing offense's strength when they have an extra week to prepare.
The Bucs D stuffs the run and invites you to throw, leaving opposing QBs susceptible to the pass rush if there aren't quickly-available receiving options creating space. This was highly effective against a WR-limited Packers team and a Drew Brees-led Saints team (who was playing with the shoulder integrity of a 56-year old Jose Canseco), but this is a different ballgame.
The Chiefs won't even think about running, and they'll combat pressure through loads of tempo, shotgun, pre-snap motion, and play-action. This will wear out the pass rush, use the Bucs' sideline-to-sideline speed against them, and create multiple quick-release receiving options on each play for Mahomes to get the ball out before pressure gets to him. The O-line will do their part, but truly it's the scheme that will keep Mahomes protected. It may be a rocky start, but when a game script calls for Mahomes to throw a zillion times he's eventually going to catch fire. Which brings us to…
Pick #2: Over 40.5 Pass Attempts (-135)
When the Chiefs and Bucs last met in Week 12, Mahomes had 43 pass attempts in the 3rd Quarter despite leading throughout. There is no reason to change.
Pick #3: Over 19.5 Yards Rushing (-170)
Mahomes was running around in practice (without being shot up) over two weeks ago. He has only gotten more time to rest and is extremely close to 100%. Knowing the pressure that Tampa will be sending, his scrambling could cover this bet by halftime.
Pick #4: Super Bowl MVP (-105)
If you like the Chiefs to win this game, I don't know why you wouldn't put a bet down on Mahomes for MVP. You can take KC on the money line at -160 or you can grab Mahomes for MVP at -105: which sounds better? According to props he's set to throw 40+ times for over 325 yards, so unless a single receiver accounts for 200+ of those yards, this award is unquestionably Mahomes' if the Chiefs come out on top.
Pick #5: Leonard Fournette Anytime TD +120
Kansas City's defense is the opposite of Tampa Bay's: they rely on their stud secondary to shut down the outsides and deep parts of the field, begging you to play short over the middle. This should open plenty of opportunities for Fournette to find the end zone.
I shat on Fournette's catching ability prior to him dropping his first two passes against Green Bay, but here's the thing - Brady and Arians don't care. Bottom line, they love Lenny. The target volume will be there (note: take a look at his Over 3.5 catches prop) and they'll deal with a couple drops if it means he can do shit like this when the ball actually stays in his hands:
The man has 7 TDs in his last 8 games. KC can't stop the run and they have the worst red zone D in the league. It's all Lenny.
And really, the bet is as simple as this: after he crosses the goal line, I just want to smirk with a Jordan shrug and say "Playoff Lenny."
Most sportsbooks price Heads/Tails at -103 or -105, which is idiotic. Don't pay the vig on a fucking coin toss. Barstool Sportsbook is offering even payouts at +100 because they're not money-grubbing savages. If you're like me and live in a state where the Barstool Sportsbook is not available (…yet), just tap a buddy and make this whole thing a lot easier. Alpha them by letting them choose and just go oppo.
Unofficial Pick: Last Song: "In Your Eyes" +1000
If you're watching this game with older folks, prepare for some confusion over 1) who The Weeknd is and 2) the type of music he's playing.
This exchange from Uncut Gems pretty much sums it up:
What the fuck is The Weeknd?
- He's going to be major, even though he's from Canada.
This guy looks stupid.
I personally love the move - it was time for a change. During J-Lo and Shakira's performance last year there were far too many middle-aged men doing boners.
But back to The Weeknd, I'm calling for a long shot that he closes with "In Your Eyes." The odds-on favorite is "Blinding Lights" (-240), but I think that's a recognizable high-energy song better suited to kick things off. The main reason I want "In Your Eyes" is that it opens the possibility for an appearance from none other than legendary saxophonist Kenny G.
No sportsbook is offering this prop, but if anyone wants to give me 10:1 odds on Kenny G gracing the stage, I'm fucking IN. Check out Playoff Kenny ripping sax like a G in this video. Don't want, need Twitter erupting with "Is that fucking Kenny G?" reactions as he spanks his woodwind to end this halftime show.
Alright, that wraps up my second NFL season here on Barstool. Best of luck today and I hope we can end things on a high note. Whether you followed along and shared kind words or said you wanted to sling dope ropes on my mom's chest, it's all part of the game and I appreciate it.
Time to crack some drinks and witness and all-timer. I hope you took off work tomorrow as a buffer, but if you didn't (rook), use that regret to act now and request off 3/19 and 3/22 for the first weekend of March Madness to soften the blow. Just lookin' out.